Recommend me a word processor?
October 2, 2019 9:18 PM   Subscribe

I would like to get a new word processor for my (newish, adequately powerful) Windows 10 computer, specifically for writing fiction. I don't need it to have a lot of features or do a lot of powerful formatting, but I am a little picky. What's out there that I should look into?

Word is okay, but I don't want a monthly subscription fee (I would rather pay a large sum outright); I don't like the text rendering in LibreOffice; Google Docs has trouble handling very long (50,000-word-plus) documents; I have Scrivener, and it's fine, but it also has trouble if I put all of my text into one big document instead of sorting it out into scenes and chapters. It's hard for me not to have the entire document in one big file, so I am hopeful that there's some great lightweight text editor out there that I haven't yet used!
posted by Jeanne to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Other possibly helpful information that I thought up after posting: I am OK with either something I can download or something that lives in the cloud, and I don't mind paying a subscription fee if it's significantly cheaper than MS Office is.
posted by Jeanne at 9:22 PM on October 2

I love using iA Writer - it has almost no features but helps me focus on writing by being clear and distraction-free. It saves text in Markdown format to a simple text file.

When you're done writing your content you can convert the markdown text to other formats, or just load it as a text file into any wordprocessor to add fancier formatting.
posted by BinaryApe at 11:48 PM on October 2

I use Shaxpir. It's both offline + cloud and is actually free (one of the reasons I picked it), and if you want add premium features like "linguistic analysis" or multi-device sync, it's 7.99 a month. But it's fully functional without that.
posted by basalganglia at 3:07 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to go the Markdown or Latex routes so you're essentially just editing plain text, SciTE handles huge files with aplomb, is cross platform, decently quick, reasonably tidy and free. It can also be persuaded to treat Markdown or Latex as a source code language and add highlighting.
posted by flabdablet at 3:27 AM on October 3

RoughDraft is still out there and works perfectly in Windows 10.
posted by tomboko at 4:52 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]

I’m still using Word 2003. It is a fully featured word processor (not sure what they added in the last 16 years, but it seems like rearranging deck chairs). It doesn’t do docx files, but the doc files it produces are perfectly openable on other platforms.

Upgrades are a scam.
posted by rikschell at 5:10 AM on October 3 [5 favorites]

What is Google Doc's problem with 50K words? That's nothing. I go over that all the time on a seven-year-old laptop.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:27 AM on October 3

yWriter is free, though perhaps with some of the same problems as Scrivener.
posted by lharmon at 6:14 AM on October 3

Bibisco! There's a free version and a pay-what-you-think-is-fair version (that seems to be $12+).
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 6:23 AM on October 3

Microsoft really wants to sell you a subscription to Office 365, but they do still sell the current version of Office for a one-time fee. It’s not cheap ($149.99) but way more economical than the monthly subscription.

Also, YMMV, but I used to think that Google Docs had problems with my really long documents, but discovered that what it in fact had problems with was documents with a long and complicated edit history. I took a document that was giving me all kinds of problems (loading agonizingly slowly, etc.), copied and pasted the text into a fresh Google Doc, and no more issues.
posted by eirin at 7:53 AM on October 3 [10 favorites]

Since you say you're writing fiction, do you plan on working with an editor, via traditional publishing or on an indie path? If yes, you should know that most book editors, and virtually all legit, professional book editors work in Word, because of its robust Track Changes. This is really essential if you've got a large manuscript and thousands of tracked changes -- Word can handle this.

Older versions of Word are fine -- I'm a professional book editor and I'm still using Word for Mac 2011.

Many of my clients work in Scrivener and then move into Word for the editing process only.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:13 AM on October 3

This is also my preferences and my process but I do find that google docs is getting better lately and I haven't had any crashy things happen in a long time--have you checked that it's not some add-ons slowing you down? Also Word is a yearly subscription for me, not monthly, if that helps at all.

However I am considering switching to a typewriter for drafting which probably shows how averse I am to finding yet another new computer program to draft on (the last time i tried, with scrivener, it completely broke my process). Good luck!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:05 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]

I will try Google Docs again!

I tried Shaxpir and liked it a lot. I'll keep playing around with that. I've used Rough Draft in the past and liked it. Someday I will teach myself Latex.

I know that Word is the standard in publishing, and I'm not averse to using it again, but it might be six months or a year (if not longer) before I actually am in a situation where I need Track Changes, so I would be much happier using something cheaper and less feature-heavy for my initial drafting. (I have access to Word on my work computer for when I need to do fiddly formatting things.)
posted by Jeanne at 11:52 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]

If you don't need features, maybe WordPad would do?
posted by current resident at 12:58 PM on October 3

I would spring for a copy of Word now, if you're thinking of using a newish version in the near future (as opposed to an older version as rikschell mentions). Microsoft is less than reliable these days with its products, and I'm less than optimistic that Word will be available as a buy-once product in a year or two.

I won't use Google Docs because (a) I've never found it reliable offline and (b) Google. My wife pays the family subscription for Office 365, so I have it when I need it, but I'm a Scrivener user and often work in plain text (Markdown) and have been known to use Pandoc to convert my Markdown text to Word.
posted by lhauser at 7:05 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]

Google "vim for writers" and read what you find. Vim is not a word processor, and has a steep learning curve, but if it clicks with you you'll never look back.
posted by avysk at 6:06 AM on October 4

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